We completed an overland trip to Northern Mozambique through Maputo, Beira and Quelimane at the end of last year [Dec 1995]. If other Getaway readers are planning a similar trip, we have good news and advice.
Roads. The road from Komatipoort to Maputo has been repaired, as well as the 'EN1' from Maputo to the bridge on the Save River. After the bridge, it deteriorates (potholes and stretches where tar is missing) until ±50 km before it joins 'EN6' going from Mutare to Beira. From there, the remaining 130 km to Beira is in excellent condition, although narrow and busy.
The road from ‘EN6’ to Caia on Zambezi river is a good sandy/gravel road, which was easily negotiable even during the rains. Good news is that the ferry across the Zambezi in Caia has been reopened, but since it is not cable operated, it may not operate after heavy rains or when the water level is high. Alternatively, cross the Zambezi about 60 km north in Vila de Sena, where the rail bridge has been converted to road traffic. If you choose this option, however, remember that during the rains, the road may be very difficult to negotiate and/or blocked by trucks, particularly some sections about 20 km before the bridge and between Mutarara and the (cable operated) ferry across the Chire river in Chipanga.
From the Zambezi to Quelimane the road is very bad - surface damage, full of potholes and, on some sections, there are deep trenches across it. Drive very, very carefully.
From Quelimane to Nampula there are sections with a relatively good surface, while others look like they are straight from the hell. Bridges are destroyed and have to be bypassed. Depending on weather conditions, expect to spend at least 12 hours on this section before Nampula.
When buying fuel always check that the pump is set to zero. It is also a good idea to verify the amount they want you to pay, particularly if calculated ‘automatically’ by petrol pump. On the way to Mutare, just outside Beira, they wanted to overcharge us more than 50 per cent!
We found banks offer slightly better exchange rates than 'black' or 'secondary exchange' markets, although it takes longer. When selling traveller's cheques, however, they charge 10 per cent commission and may require a 'letter from your bank' (?).
In all major towns theft is endemic and seems to be on the increase. Never leave anything unattended, even on the beach, as it will almost certainly grow legs. When dealing with police at the checkpoints along the road, remember that arguing with officials is usually counterproductive and, if you are requested to pay a fine, we strongly advise you to do so; any attempts to argue and you may have your documents confiscated.
When the language barrier is obvious and the only word you understand is something that sounds like ‘fine’, good results can be gained from pretending you don't understand. Smile, show cameras, maps, whatever and they may actually let you go. It really worked for us.
And - whoever wants to charge you for whatever - always request the receipt (factura). It certainly saved us a lot of money!
Mozambique is great, we will most certainly go back. If anyone has particular questions, please contact us.
Ela & Irek Wanicki,
Ps. We are planning our next trip to the Northern Mozambique in December
1998 (3 weeks during the school holidays) with the objective to
explore the coast north of Pemba (diving, snorkeling, photography).
If anyone would like to join us, please contact us at
[ Pictures from Mozambique...]
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